Two of my students missed the wresting bus to their match this afternoon. One of them immediately had a list of excuses: They didn’t do an announcement to remind us. They didn’t call your room when we weren’t on the bus. You didn’t remind us.
I couldn’t help but smile when another student looked at them and said, “Isn’t it your responsibility to remember your stuff and not everyone else’s job?” Of course, this student was absolutely correct. No one was going to hold that student’s hand through the hallway to make sure that he got onto the bus when he was supposed to. It was his choice to not pay attention. It was his responsibility.
All too often, I am just like this when Lent rolls around. I have a list of excuses a mile long as to why it was OK to have that donut when I gave up sweets or why I didn’t have time to spend a few minutes in prayer. These excuses are an obstacle in my spiritual journey.
Lent is a time for us to slow down and refocus our minds on the goal of our journey: heaven. Through our Lenten sacrifices, we deprive ourselves of small (or maybe big) things in hopes of deepening our relationship with God. It teaches us discipline and focus. With each choice to not eat a donut, not turn on the radio, or not hit the snooze button, we are screaming, “I want to grow closer to you, God. You are worth every little sacrifice.”
Each and every small sacrifice is important. God sees it, even if no one else does.
The thing is, most of us won’t be famous. Most likely, no one is going to bring a news camera to our house and film us denying ourselves of chocolate so that we can become holy. Perhaps that is a good thing. We are told in Matthew 6 to, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them.” It goes on to say that, “Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” In other words, we have to push aside all of our excuses and choose to make that sacrifice regardless of the fact that others won’t see.
Each sacrifice should also be done with great love.
Blessed Mother Teresa one stated, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” In other words, we are all capable of doing small things, and we should do so with genuine love. Love involves putting other people’s needs before our own. During Lent, we can practice this concept by offering up our choice to not eat meat, or whatever it may be, for a specific person. Rather than complaining about how delicious that steak would have been, instead choose to pray for someone. Lord, I offer up this Lenten sacrifice for “Sally” who is battling cancer right now. Please heal her.
So this Lent, let’s refocus on the goal of our journey. As a wise eighth grader said today, “Isn’t it your responsibility to remember your stuff and not everyone else’s job?” So rather than making excuses, let’s strive to humbly do small acts of love that are centered in prayer.